|Leadership *2 - Psalm 23
THE DIVINE SHEPHERD
"God Who Has Been My Shepherd All My Life"
1. The "Shepherd" metaphor is a rich and familiar notion. The relationship of a shepherd with his sheep was quite familiar. The Shepherd's duty was to provide for and protect the flock. He was responsible for leading them to grasses, water and protecting against predators.
2. Also, "Shepherd" had royal connotations in the ancient world. It denoted the rulers/leaders of a people. Kings were shepherds of their people. The kings of Israel were shepherds (Jer. 23:1-4), and David was as shepherd of sheep whom God made a shepherd of his people (Psalm 78:70-72).
3. The entire Psalm is an exposition of the first line: "I shall not want" or lack. The Psalm then tells us what the believer does not lack with God as his Shepherd. It does not mean "I don't lack for anything I ever desired," but "here is what the Lord has done for me so I do not really lack anything." The meaning is "so long as the Lord is my shepherd, I will not lack for anything I need."
4. The language of the Psalm reflects God's activity in Israel, and some of the language is reminiscient of "exodus" language (the language of God leading Israel through the wildnerness into the promised land). For example, during the wilderness time Israel lacked nothing (Deut. 2:7), God lead Israel to holy pastures (Exodus 15:13), there is no fear because God is with them (Deut. 20:1; 31:8), God prepared a table for Israel in the wilderness (Ps. 78:19), and God dwelled among his people in the tabernacle during the wilderness.
5. The Psalm is a testimony to what God has done for his people (corporately and personally) and it is a testimony of God's caring presence among his people. The significance of "The Lord is my Shepherd" is that "I am with you."
6. The spiritual images in the Psalm include:
a. spiritual nourishment (grass, water, "restores my soul")
b. ethical guidance (paths of righteousness, "staff"=guidance)
c. comforting presence (no fear, comforting staff)
d. protection against evil ones ("rod"=club for defense, enemies)
e. festive celebration (table, oil, cup)
f. confident living (goodness and mercy will follow)
7. The key idea, if there is one, is what the Psalm begins and ends with as well as a summary point in the middle. The key idea is presence--it is a presence that does something, that acts. It comforts, nourishes, protects, celebrates with and blesses.
"The Lord is my Shepherd"
"You are with Me"
"I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
8. God as Shepherd is a model for his human shepherds, whether Israelite kings or church elders.
1. Who remembers the first time they learned this Psalm? What is your first memories of hearing this Psalm? What were the circumstances?
2. Why do you think this Psalm has captured the imagination of believers throughout the centuries? Why is it the most often read Psalm at funerals?
3. What images are most compelling and helpful to you in this Psalm? What in this Psalm speaks most directly to your heart and experience? How does that image reflect God's shepherding care?
4. How is this Psalm applied to Jesus as the shepherd? As a Christian reading this Psalm, what images are evoked about Jesus as shepherd?
5. Since God is the model shepherd for human shepherds, what qualities in this Psalm are most important for human shepherds, particularly shepherds of the church?
6. What might these qualities look like in a church which is led by elders? How should elders emulate the divine shepherd? If you could say to an elder, this Psalm means you should __________, how would you fill in the blank?
7. In the light of this Psalm, describe an elder's life in relationship to the church. What is the nature of his involvement with the flock and what are his responsibilities?